Royal Furniture
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    William Chambers
    Angelica Kauffman
    Wedgwood Flaxman
    Satinwood, Mahogany
      Kneehole Table
      Chair Backs
    Dining Room
  Laura Ashley Furniture
  Outdoor Furniture

Introduction of Satinwood and Mahogany

Mahogany may be said to have came into general use subsequent to 1720, and its introduction is asserted to have been due to the tenacity of purpose of a Dr. Gibbon, whose wife wanted a candle box, an article of common domestic use of the time. The doctor, who had laid by in the garden of his house in King Street, Covent Garden, some planks sent to him by his brother, a West Indian captain, asked a joiner to use a part of the wood for this purpose; it was found too tough and hard for the tools of the period, but the Doctor was not to be thwarted, and insisted on harder-tempered tools being found, and the task was completed; the result was the production of a candle box which was admired by every one. He then ordered a bureau of the same material, and when it was finished, he invited his friends to see the new work; amongst others, the Duchess of Buckingham begged a small piece of the precious wood, and it soon became the fashion. On account of its toughness, and peculiarity of grain, it was capable of treatment impossible with oak, and the high polish it took by oil and rubbing (not French polish, a later invention), caused it to come into great request. The term " putting one's knees under a friend's mahogany," probably dates from about this time.

Thomas Sheraton, who commenced work some twenty years later than Chippendale, and continued in business until the early part of the nineteenth century, accomplished much excellent work in English furniture.

The fashion had now changed; instead of the rococo - literally, rock work and shell (roequaille et coquaille) - ornament, which had gone out, a simpler and more severe taste had come in. In Sheraton's cabinets, chairs, writing tables, and occasional pieces, we have therefore no longer the cabriole leg or the carved ornament; but, as in the case of the brothers Adam, and the furniture designed by them for such houses as those in Portland Place, we have now square tapering legs, severe lines, and quiet ornament. Sheraton trusted almost entirely for decoration to his marqueterie. Some of this is very delicate and of excellent workmanship. He introduced occasionally into his scrolls animals with foliated extremities, and he also inlaid marqueterie trophies of musical instruments; but as a rule the decoration was in wreaths of flowers, husks, or drapery, in strict adherence to the fashion of the decorations to which allusion has been made. A characteristic feature of his cabinets was the swan-necked pediment surmounting the cornice, being a revival of an ornament fashionable during Queen Anne's reign. It was then chiefly found in stone, marble, or cut brickwork, but subsequently became prevalent in inlaid woodwork.

Sheraton was apparently a man very well educated for his time, whether self taught or not one cannot say; but that he was an excellent draughtsman, and had a complete knowledge of geometry, is evident from the skilful drawings in his book, and the careful though rather verbose directions he gives for perspective drawing. Many of his numerous designs for furniture and ornamental items are drawn to a scale with the geometrical nicety of an engineer's or architect's plan. He has drawn in elevation, plan, and minute detail, each of the five architectural orders.

The selection made here from his designs for the purposes of illustration, is not taken from his later work, which properly belongs to a future, when we come to consider the influence of the French Revolution, and the translation of the " Empire " style to England. Sheraton published " The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book " in 1793, and the list of subscribers whose names and addresses are given, throws much light on the subject of the furniture of his time (The late Mr. Adam Black, senior partner in the publishing firm of A. and C. Black, and Lord Macaulay's colleague in Parliament, when, quite a young man, assisted Sheraton in the production of this book; at that time the famous designer of furniture was in poor circumstances.). Amongst these are many of his aristocratic patrons and no less than 450 names and addresses of cabinet makers, chair makers, and carvers, exclusive of harpsichord manufacturers, musical instrument makers, upholsterers, and other kindred trades. Included with these we find the names of firms who, from the appointments they held, it may be inferred, had a high reputation for good work, and a leading position in the trade, but who, perhaps from the absence of a taste for " getting into print " and from the lack of any brand or mark by which their work can be identified, have passed into oblivion while their contemporaries are still famous. The following names taken from this list are probably those of men who had for many years conducted well known and old established businesses, but would now be but poor ones to " conjure " with: while those of Chippendale, Sheraton, or Hepplewhite, are a ready passport for a doubtful specimen. For instance France, Cabinet Maker to His Majesty, St. Martin's Lane; Charles Elliott, Upholder to His Majesty and Cabinet Maker to the Duke of York, Bond Street; Campbell and Sons, Cabinet Makers to the Prince of Wales, Mary-le-bone Street, London. Besides those who held Royal appointments, there were other manufacturers of decorative furniture - Thomas Johnson, Copeland, Robert Davy, a French carver named Nicholas Collet, who settled in England, and many others.

In Mr. J. H. Pollen's larger work on furniture and woodwork, which includes a catalogue of the different examples in the South Kensington Museum, there is a list of the various artists and craftsmen who have been identified with the production of artistic furniture either as designers or manufacturers, and the writer has found this of considerable service. In the Appendix to this work, this list has been reproduced, with the addition of several names (particularly those of the French school) omitted by Mr. Pollen, and it will, it is hoped, prove a useful reference to the reader.

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